Law enforcement in the United Kingdom, Spain, the United States, Romania and Serbia have joined forces for an operation against individuals suspected of running investment fraud operations, also known as boiler room operations.
According to the United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency (NCA), Spanish and UK police have executed 35 warrants resulting in the arrests of 110 people. 84 suspects were arrested in Spain, 20 in the UK, 4 in Serbia and 2 in the US.
They’ve all been detained on suspicion of money laundering and fraud offences.
During the raids on private addresses and buildings where boiler room operations were conducted, watches, luxury cars, other high-value items, and £500,000 ($834,000 / €606,000) in cash were seized.
In total, 14 boiler rooms were closed down in Spain, two in the UK and one in Serbia.
“The scale of this operation demonstrates the response that major fraudsters targeting the UK public should expect,” stated Stephanie Jeavons, deputy director of the NCA's Economic Crime Command.
“Working with partners like the Policía Nacional and City of London Police, the NCA is directing its international reach, intelligence capability and relentless focus on cutting economic crime to putting these criminals out of business,” Jeavons added.
“Awareness of this type of crime among the UK public, as well as ex-pat communities, can also help to fight it. Boiler room fraudsters often attract jobseekers with offers of lucrative sales jobs based abroad, which turn out to be cold-calling people and aggressively selling them worthless or non-existent commodities. This can decimate the financial security of innocent people.”
The Spanish National Police and the City of London Police began their investigation into boiler room operations back in 2012 after receiving reports from investors who had purchased bogus shares. Many of the victims suffered major financial losses.
A number of arrests have been made since, but the recent phase of the operation has been focusing on the masterminds of these schemes.
“This is a landmark both from an investigative perspective and in terms of our close working partnership with other law enforcement agencies, most notably the Spanish National Police,” said Steve Head, City of London Police commander and National Economic Crime coordinator.
“It is our most important investigation ever, targeting people we believe are at the top of an organised crime network that has been facilitating boiler rooms across Europe and which is suspected of being responsible for millions of pounds of investment fraud,” Head added.